Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has an important message about feeling like a failure

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Sarah Shaffi
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Alexandria Ocasia-Cortez. Image: Getty

“Just yesterday I felt like I was failing, every day I still feel like I’m failing.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is no stranger to having a bold vision. She was working as a bartender in New York when she decided to run for the House of Representatives, and won the Democratic nomination against a man who had served 10 terms in office.

So it’s no surprise that having been elected, Ocasio-Cortez is continuing to make daring moves, from calling out those who say she hasn’t earned her place in the House to introducing a new plan to tackle climate change and economic and racial injustice.

But those moves don’t mean that Ocasio-Cortez is full of confidence - in fact, she has revealed that she still often thinks of herself as a failure.

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 19: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Democratic of the 14th congressional district of the House Of Representatives addresses the crowd with a passionate speech to kick off the 3rd Annual Woman's March in the borough of Manhattan in NY on January 19, 2019, USA. Demonstrators holding signs behind her that say 'End Proverty', 'Immigration Rights' and 'Green New Deal'. The rally took place 2 years after the inauguration of President Donald Trump thousands gather to protest equal rights at the 2019 Women's March. (Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says she is no stranger to feeling like a failure.

“What I’ve found is that I used to feel like a failure a lot, and I still feel like a failure a lot,” she said at an event in New York. “Just yesterday I felt like I was failing, every day I still feel like I’m failing.

“I still feel like I’m growing out of that. I still feel like I’m failing and I have all this anxiety all the time and especially now. Sometimes it feels like everyone’s looking at you and no one is. But now everyone actually is looking at me and I’m like ‘oh my god’.”

But, she said, she has “started to just roll with it”, and has realised her mistakes don’t define her.

“I’m like, ‘guess what? I made a mistake, deal with it’,” she said. “Like I’m trying and you’re not. So that’s the part I’ve gotten to. It’s like yeah, I messed up, who cares?”

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Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal calls on the government to take action to stop global warming, and says that climate change, pollution and environmental destruction have “exacerbated systemic racial, regional, social, environmental, and economic injustices”.

The proposed bill has gained the support of dozens of politicians, including Democratic presidential candidates Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar.

But the plan has also been criticised by figures who say it is unaffordable and unrealistic, while President Trump has said (incorrectly, of course) that it would eliminate all “Planes, Cars, Cows, Oil, Gas & the Military”.

At the New York event, held by Girls Who Code, Ocasio-Cortez hit out at these critics, and reminded the audience of the power of trying. 

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 07: U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks as Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) (R) and other Congressional Democrats listen during a news conference in front of the U.S. Capitol February 7, 2019 in Washington, DC. Sen. Markey and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez held a news conference to unveil their Green New Deal resolution. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaigning for her Green New Deal

“The power is in the person who’s trying, regardless of the success,” she said. “If you’re trying, you’ve got all the power, you’re driving the agenda, you’re doing all this stuff.

“I just introduced Green New Deal two weeks ago, and it’s creating all of this conversation. Why? Because no one else has even tried, because no one else has even tried.

“So people are like ‘oh it’s unrealistic, oh it’s vague, oh it’s doesn’t address this little minute thing’. And I’m like ‘you try, you do it, because you’re not. So until you do it, I’m the boss.’”

Ocasio-Cortez was being interviewed by Reshma Saujani, who is also no stranger to making courageous moves. In 2010 she was the first Indian American woman to run for Congress. Although she didn’t succeed in her bid for office, she went on to found Girls Who Code.

Ocasio-Cortez spoke honestly about past failures, saying she wanted to do social enterprise work with young people after graduating, but “tried, and I fell on my face”.

“And it didn’t work out and I tried so many things and I failed and failed and failed,” she said.

She recalled that before she won the Democratic primary, no one would endorse her, and “people would run away from me because they didn’t want to be in the same picture as me”.

“You always see after the success, but before it was really hard,” she said.

Ocasio-Cortez’s fighting spirit is worth celebrating, and we’re not the only ones that think so – comic book company Devil’s Due Comics is immortalising the congresswoman in a new comic book.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Freshman Force will celebrate the “election of the most diverse group of freshman congresspersons in history, and spare no-one in this satire that takes aim at Washington”, said the company.

She may not be a superhero, but in getting up after each failure and in trying to make a big, bold changes, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is teaching us all to be brave. 

Images: Getty


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Sarah Shaffi

Sarah Shaffi is a freelance journalist and editor. She reads more books a week than is healthy, and balances this out with copious amounts of TV. She writes regularly about popular culture, particularly how it reflects and represents society.

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